Mix With The Masters Experience-PART 3!!!
Ok, Part 3 with much less of a hiatus between parts!
Let me go over a couple of the more esoteric points from the last instalment with you. Let’s start with the drums.
Now, I don’t really know the protocol regarding how much info to divulge here. I mean, I don’t want give away both Eddie’s and my own IP in terms of detail in the specific techniques he passed on but we’ll all use them very differently. That is what makes us individual after all. I left the previous post mentioning that the drums were the first instrument we as a group examined.
The kit set up was fairly standard. Kick, snare, hat, one rack tom and a floor tom plus a ride and 2 crash type cymbals. Fairly standard by any stretch of the imagination. It was initially set up in the large space off the main tracking room but after a short while that ideas was abandoned I don’t remember why though. So everything was relocated to the main tracking space very near to the stair well to be able to utilise Eddie’s favourite techniques no doubt. On to the finer points. Let me see if I can remember the kick details firstly.
It was a single kick drum and pedal (thankfully!!) a 22″ medium depth shell. Can’t remember the colour, possibly green. For isolation purposes Eddie had a couple of the guys build a ‘tunnel’ out of packing blankets. (The type removal companies tend to use to cover and protect your fine furniture).
The blanket as I’ve pointed out was for isolation purposes mainly from the cymbal bleed but, also for the purposes of shortening the decay time of the kick drum itself. The mics that were used were as follows; a Shure SM91 boundary mic…..actually I must interject here as i forgot that there was a brick inserted into the shell which was affectively used to reduce the resonance of the drum. The SM91 was placed on top of the drum and this mainly addresses the attack of the signal. I’m struggling to remember the main kick mic possibly a Shure Beta 52 or possibly an AKG D12.
One of the techniques that really struck me though was the use of a Neumann U47 FET. I’d only used one once or twice but was immediately struck how present it sounded. Even though it was being used in conjunction with the other mics it had all the necessary character and clarity one could want from a kick drum. The blend however was also something to behold. Eddie’s use of each mic created a very solid and timeless sounding kick drum.
The Snare Drum!!
I presume I have to be honest here, I actually can’t remember what was used on the snare! I think it was a 14″ wooden snare and there were definitely two mics (top and bottom) used. One was perhaps the standard snare mic of a SM57? and the other maybe one of the newer Shure mics…….possibly a KSM ??. Sorry, my memory can be my own worst enemy sometimes! It sounded great anyway whatever it/they were/was.
The Overheads however I can remember! Cos they were not one, not two, but, three Neumann U47 tube mics! I think at some point one was swapped out with a clone that someone had brought to compare the difference of which out of interest there was relatively none!! (In that application!) The thing that struck me here was the use of three mics. I’d always tended to go for two overheads as most people do but how Eddie described using a 3 mic overhead was as in LCR (left, centre, right) a term i’d been introduced to just a few months earlier from reading the Mixerman books: Zen and the Art of Mixing and The Daily Adventures of MIxerman….both superb but very different books. Well worth purchasing if you’re serious or even if you’re not about your audio career! So basically this overhead technique took the LCR thing and it made perfect sense. The stereo image was all of a sudden ‘filled in’ for want of a better term. The snare was most definitely in the centre of the image and the sides also felt more positioned. So, again an absolute method to be utilised in subsequent work.
The toms were mic’d with some of the smaller Shure clip-on mics again sorry I can’t recall model numbers but they sounded pretty good. Not my first choice for toms but the kit was well tuned and as it turns out very well played and the toms play a slightly more secondary roll in most drum patterns so you can get most things to work. This does very much depend on the player though…I can’t stress that enough!!!!!
Room ambience (my favourite aspect of drum recording) was an interesting topic and mic choice too. As i said earlier the kit was set up at the bottom of a staircase of roughly 20′ long by 5-6′ wide. All stone. It was very reverberant and quite bright sounding too. A pair of Velvet Audio Black Knight mics were set up towards the top of the staircase. They were on an XY bar but I can’t remember in which direction they were facing to tell what the mic pattern was!.
There are as most of you reading this know hundreds of techniques regarding room ambience. And also hundreds of techniques regarding the mic-ing of a drum kit. Obviously it wholly depends on a) time frame and b) the intention behind the production but, I want to share one experience I had not long ago. This isn’t connected to the MWTM story other than it was an audio experience and it was to do with drums.
For a while now I’ve been seeing mic-ing drums with fewer and fewer mics but i’d never had the chance or opportunity to experiment with the technique. So I was pleased when one did. This could and should probably be a blog in itself so I will try to keep this brief and if anyone wants to know more either I’ll expand it into a full blog or you can email me and ask questions.
Anyway, This thing came up where we wanted to go for a real striped back authentic sound especially on the drums so, having had a chat with the drummer (who happened to be one of my best friends) we decided to go for the minimal approach. I used the much coveted Neumann FET U47 on the kick drum but about 2′ away, a Beyerdynamic M160 hypercardioid ribbon mic and a single Coles/BBC 4038 (figure of eight) as a mono overhead. 3 mics on the kit and then a room mic, a single Neumann U67 about 11 or 12′ from the kit itself squashed into a mic-pre with compression but not shockingly so and I have to admit, it was awesome. Very direct sounding yet very controlled too and much easier to mix once the track had been finished than I first suspected. But, may I add one thing here……..the drummer was great. That’s the thing that makes ALL the difference and don’t let ANYONE convince you otherwise!!
So, I think that’s a fitting place to end part 3……hope you like it and be sHure(wink wink!!) to tune in next time for the thrilling instalment of MIX WITH THE MASTERS EXPERIENCE!!! WOOHOO!!!!
Here’s a pic of all the guys on the course I found the other day.